BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the third of a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry. These posts help us to ponder the intersection of one-another ministry through biblical counseling and one-another ministry through small group community. You will also find posts in this series by Lee Lewis, Garrett Higbee, and Ken Long. In today’s post, Mike Wilkerson provides practical ideas for connecting biblical counseling and small group ministry.
A church’s biblical counseling ministry can catalyze its small groups ministry, and through them enhance the culture of the whole church. In my years as a pastor at Mars Hill Church, I first worked on developing our regular small groups—we call them Community Groups. Then for the past several years, I’ve developed the biblical counseling ministries, of which Redemption Groups™ have been the most prominent. I’ve seen how these ministries complement one another well in my own pastoral work, as well as in the churches of friends and colleagues who’ve taken a similar approach.
For this blog, I will assume the context of a local church and that this church has a small groups ministry which is a primary place for discipleship and where most church members are in community with one another. Here, then, are three tips for connecting small groups ministries with biblical counseling ministries like Redemption Groups.
Tip 1: Train small group leaders and participants for basic biblical counseling.
It’s good to be ever increasing the capacity of the participants and leaders of the small groups to care for their group members. For example, some churches who run Redemption Groups ask their small group leaders to go through a Redemption Group as part of their training. This is done not to recruit them into Redemption Group leadership, but to equip them more thoroughly for continuing to lead their small groups.
At Mars Hill Church, we also run a course called Counseling in Community™ which has helped us to provide experiential training labs for many people who may never participate in a Redemption Group or individual biblical counseling. Participants in this course have included not just leaders of small groups, but many other small group members as well. Our hope in this has been to make basic equipping in biblical counseling a normal part of the life of our community.
Tip 2: Involve small groups in the continuity of care in biblical counseling ministries.
Paul Tripp says in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: “Most of us are tempted to think that change has taken place before it actually has. We confuse growth in knowledge and insight with genuine life change.”
Yet at the same time, rather than continuing in a prolonged biblical counseling process to ensure that insight gives way to change over time, say, in an individual biblical counseling setting, it may be better to invite some members of that counselee’s small group into the process of helping him to walk in the light of new insights, pursuing change that will be seen and celebrated within that community.
In Redemption Groups, for example, participants prepare a “Wilderness Travel Plan” as their time in the group draws to a close. This plan reflects what insights they want to continue to walk in, and with whom in their community they intend to walk. It would be ideal if some of those with whom they intend to walk are part of their own small group. In order for this to be more likely, it will help if there are people in the small group who have some basic equipping in biblical counseling, which reminds us of Tip 1 above.
Tip 3: Start infusing a culture of biblical counseling into small groups early in the life of the church.
This is aiming high, I know. Many church plants—many established churches too, in fact—are doing well just to see that small groups are a normal part of the church. But I do think it is a worthy goal to infuse your small groups with biblical counseling sensibilities from the start, even if you’re just getting started with (or perhaps re-starting) your small groups.
At Mars Hill Church, for example, when we plant a new church, it has become normal for us to begin training the first round of Community Group leaders with the Counseling in Community course as early as possible (Community Groups are what we call our regular small groups). This casts a vision for biblical counseling early in their leadership by engaging them personally and experientially. This enhances their small group leadership, improving the pastoral care in those groups, and plants the seeds for a culture of biblical counseling early in the life of the church.
Join the Conversation
What recommendations do you have for connecting small groups and biblical counseling?
(“Redemption Groups” and “Counseling in Community” are trademarks of The Redemption Group Network)
Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 242.